• Jake Wynn

Governor Andrew Curtin's response to Confederate invasion threat - September 1862

In the early morning hours of September 7, 1862, Pennsylvania's Governor Andrew Curtin received a disturbing telegram from an intelligence source in Maryland. It confirmed a rumor that had been whispered in the state capital for several days - a large Confederate invasion force was amassing on the Keystone State's southern border.

The following is the text of that message, addressed to Governor Curtin:


Chambersburg, [September] 6th

A.G. Curtin


Received full particulars concerning invasion of Maryland. Rebels arrived at Frederick City today at 11 o’clock, consisting of cavalry, 350; 19 pieces of cannon – 1 howitzer (6-pounder), 6 10-pounder rifled cannon, and 12 ordinary pieces. Whole force seen amounted to 3,500.


Were shoeless, unclad, taking possession of all stores having shoes, army goods, or other supplies, paying for the same [with] Confederate scrip. Announced their destination Baltimore. Crossed Noland’s Ford.


[General Thomas J.] Jackson told an intimate friend of mine, living at Poolesville, he designed crossing into Pennsylvania, through Adams, York, and Lancaster, to Philadelphia.


I believe he designs to invade Cumberland Valley, to procure supplies. Large numbers of persons came up on train tonight from Hagerstown.[i]


Curtin forwarded the message to military officers in Baltimore and to the War Department in Washington. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton replied that the Lincoln administration had no troops to spare for the defense of Pennsylvania - all forces were directed to join General George McClellan's Army of the Potomac in pursuit of the Confederate invasion force.[ii]

Governor Andrew G. Curtin (LOC)

Two days later, on September 9, 1862, Curtin called out the Pennsylvania militia, an order that proved, mercifully, to be unnecessary.[iii] The largely untrained, and ill-prepared militia force went unused in the campaign that followed. McClellan's forces confronted the Confederate invasion force and fought two large battles on Maryland soil - the Battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862 and the far bloodier Battle of Antietam on September on September 17.

Governor Curtin's response to the threat against his state had been a constant thorn in the side of the Lincoln administration during the crisis. He constantly wired for more troops and supplies that authorities in Washington could ill-afford to relinquish in the emergency.[iv]


The experience of handling this crisis ultimately steeled Curtin's nerves and gave him valuable insights that proved helpful when Confederate forces returned and invaded the Keystone State in June 1863.

[i] The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1896) Series I, Vol. 19, Part 2, 203 (Subsequently referred to as OR)


[ii] OR, Series I, Vol. 19, Part 2, 204-205


[iii] OR, Series I, Vol. 19, Part 2, 214-216


[iv] Stephen Sears. Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam. (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1983) 110

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